3D model

Revealing Exciting New Cover Art!

After four days of intensive work, I now have new cover art for the first Astronomicon novel. The book rewrite has gone well, creating a novel which is substantially different and much improved from the original. A new front cover seemed like a good way to draw a clear distinction between this novel and the original.

That was enough of a reason on its own, but as the novel has a new name (Inception Point) and the design of the Elysian spacecraft featured on the existing cover art has completely changed, the existing artwork is also completely obsolete. I created a 3D model of the Elysian vessel over a year ago but it was only ever supposed to be a diagram to help me write the novel. Several attempts to improve it enough to work for illustrations did not produce good results, so my only other option was to rebuild it from scratch.

This time, with rendering in mind, I built it again with considerably more detail and appropriate lighting. It was a huge amount of work, but I think the results are more than worth it.

3D photorealistic render of Elysian space craft cover art.

Of course, the big advantage of creating a 3D model is that I can produce shots of it from any angle, at any distance and infinitely vary the lighting. For example, producing a rear-view shot like this took less than forty minutes:

3D photorealistic rear view of Elysian spacecraft cover art(Sorry, I forgot to change the background before rendering that one!)

I am so pleased with the results of this exercise, that I will definitely give it a go for more of the Astronomicon novels. Building the ship models at this level of finish, and matching detail, is certainly time-consuming, but just look at the results! It’s the best cover art I’ve ever created myself. I just hope it helps my sales on Amazon.

Can you plan too much? #scifi

As most of my works are science fiction, I tend to end up with many scenes set on space craft. Some of these are brief, but in my more recent books space craft have featured more heavily.

View along top of Celtic Conveyor

JHF Celtic Conveyor

Sometimes I’ve sketched out deck plans on paper, detailing just the locations which crop up. This was how I designed the Elysian in Astronomicon: The Beginning and the USS Oppenheimer in Icarus. Other times I have put in some hours constructing detailed 3D models on my laptop. Examples of this are the Icarus from the book of the same name and the Akhena from Astronomicon: Distant Relatives.

The clear advantage of 3D models is that I can try out walking around the different locations, trying out new angles and coming up with ideas that a paper plan just wouldn’t inspire. It gives me a better idea of distances and lines-of-sight, occasionally causing me to use locations I would not have considered otherwise.

Eridani Flagship AkhenaThis doesn’t always go to plan. When I started designing the Eridani flagship, the Akhena, I quickly discovered that I had bitten off far more than I could chew.

The vessel was considerably larger that I could construct myself, so I was forced to limit myself to the important areas that would be used in the novel. The main hangar bay (near the rear of the vessel) was constructed in detail, as were the major corridors and some obvious architectural features such as the gardens. I may have to add to this model in future as the Akhena will be appearing again in a planned future novel.

JHF Celtic Conveyor

JHF Celtic Conveyor (overview)

My most recent work, Deadline, has led me to build my most detailed model yet. Most of the book is set on the Celtic Conveyor so it was necessary to model many of the locations on the ship. Especially as the crew spend much of their time chasing the mysterious alien intruder around the bowels of the ship. I’m also planning for the model to be re-used as the Celtic Conveyor’s sister ship, the Astral Empress. If I can use a model several times, it makes it worth investing a little more time in the construction.

JHF Celtic Conveyor

JHF Celtic Conveyor

With practice, I have got much faster at using the tools and a better judge of what details are important and which can be glossed over or ignored completely. It’s been a fascinating process and allowed me to maintain perfect consistency when characters move about within the vessel.

Now all I need to do is find someone who can render up the models so I can use them on my book covers too.

Icarus Front view 2 - In Space

Icarus – Gecko Class Asteroid Mining Vessel

JHF Celtic Conveyor

Bow of the Celtic ConveyorI thought it was time to give another update on the progress with the Jovian Heavy Freighter Celtic Conveyor design. There probably won’t be much more construction work beyond exterior dressing now as I am mostly working on writing the novel. All the elements I expect to feature within “Astronomicon: Deadline” are already designed, so I can get on with writing the first draft.


For those of you who are interested, here are a few statistics about the Celtic Conveyor:

  • Overall Length: 450m
  • Width: 35m
  • Mass: 150,000 Metric Tons
  • Payload Capacity 221,000 Metric Tons
  • Cargo Pods: 24
  • Captain: Nigel Hoffman


Wide view of cargo pods and drive section of Celtic conveyor

Obviously, being a freighter, the Celtic Conveyor’s carrying capacity is largely dedicated to the enormous detachable cargo pods. Each of these is 20 metres long, 13.5 wide and almost 8 metres tall. These can be pressurised if preferred and airlock access is provided to each along the Celtic Conveyor’s central spine.

The vessel is able to fly without some or all the cargo pods, but any connected pods should be balanced to avoid affecting the vessel’s flight characteristics. For financial reasons a full cargo manifest is preferred wherever possible.

View along top of Celtic Conveyor

What really sets this model apart from the science fiction ship models you normally see is that most of the internal structure is also modelled. In this view you can see cabins on the far left, a reception area behind that and some of the passenger facilities located in the rear of the passenger deck. These include (from left to right), a GP surgery, pharmacy, a dental surgery, small infirmary, sports hall and exercise gym facilities with changing rooms.

Front view of passenger section


JHF Celtic Conveyor’s design incorporates a variety of factors and influences. The primary concerns are practicality and viability. The bow, in particular, features several nods to maritime vessels. The vessel’s long, thin shape presents the smallest possible surface area to the direction of travel, minimising micrometeorite damage during transit. The shape also allows for much lower powered field emitters to be used to protect the vessel from Jovian radiation emissions.


The passenger deck is designed to be practical and efficient whilst providing comfortable and varied space for passengers to enjoy voyages of between one and two months. There are two kitchens. The main one situated in the restaurant on the Passenger Deck, but there is a support kitchen on the lower Service Deck which also acts as a backup in case of equipment failures in the main kitchen.  The passenger deck also houses all food and consumable supplies, water and atmosphere reprocessing facilities, laundry, secondary crew accommodation, 32 Cryosleep pods and some extra passenger entertainment facilities.


The vessels almost flat 3 deck layout only became viable once artificial gravity technology was adopted from the Eridani people. See “Distant Relatives” for more information.